IS THE XFL, FOOTBALL RE-IMAGINED FOR FANS?
On Saturday afternoon in Houston, the Houston Roughnecks had 19,773 fans to ready to witness a battle of two of the XFL’s better offensive teams. The Roughnecks rallied to defeat the Seattle Dragons 32-23 in an exciting, but controversial game. The energy inside of TDECU Stadium was electric. I could not help but notice the positive vibes that resonated with the fans after the Roughnecks' win. Their victory has them undefeated at 5-0 in their inaugural season. You can hear the chatter of fans who are buzzing about the chances for the Bayou City to have another championship. The most recent Houston professional teams with titles are the Rockets, Comets, Astros, and Dynamos. The vibes are reminiscent of those felt in New Orleans when the Saints are winning or close to going to the playoffs.
THE GULFCOAST CONNECTION - NEW ORLEANS & HOUSTON
Houston Roughnecks’ fans are not entirely different from Saints fans. They are passionate, fun-loving, and have unique costumes all in support of their team. The only difference is how the Roughnecks organization and XFL have used fan engagement during football games. The NFL is extremely conservative in this regard. Team and fan interaction at the stadiums and on television has been the main ingredient for the XFL’s success. If you combine this with the fast-pace of the game, you will always find a need to be aware of the game action and engage. I have attended many high school, college, MLB, NBA, and NFL games in my lifetime, the XFL’s speed and fan-friendly affair is great. Still in a professional game setting, the New Orleans Saints fanbase provides the most thrills and fun of any fans in the world.
It is too early for the XFL to have a fanbase that rivals the Saints' Who Dat Nation. However, from my observations, the Houston Roughnecks fans are trending in the right direction. The Roughnecks' followers are also great at traveling to away games. Last weekend, the Roughnecks played the Dallas Renegades. There was an uptick in attendance in Dallas from 17,206 (Battlehawks) to 18,332 (Roughnecks), and Saturday at 15,950 (Guardians). The Roughnecks are great for television as well. The audio access and sideline reports with players during the games are entertaining and interesting.
Many XFL followers are engaged, knowledgeable of the new rules, and appreciate how the field announcers are coming into the stadium’s stands to interview attendees. While the games have NFL lovers being converted into XFL zealots this spring, the league has had its recent controversy.
XFL HANDLING CONTROVERSY
Saints fans are fully aware of controversial officiating in the NFL. Well, the XFL had one on the Roughnecks final play. When QB P.J. Walker knelt with 2 seconds left on the clock, the referees should have blown the play dead. This would have allowed the Dragons a final play at the Roughnecks’ 21-yard line. The XFL league officials quickly reassigned officiating Supervisor Wes Booker for the error on Saturday night. The XFL released a statement apologizing for Booker’s error.
Why was XFL front office announcement so significant? NFL fans are frustrated with the league's lack of accountability with officiating crews. Saints fans can point to two recent New Orleans Saints games that they will never forget, nor forgive of the NFL. The obvious pass interference “NOLA NO-CALL” play from Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman on Saints WR Tommylee Lewis (2019 NFC Championship) and the Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph endzone push off on Saints DB P.J. Williams (2020 NFC Wild Card Game) are fresh on Saints fans’ minds.
If the NFL gave a quick and decisive response to the error from Referee Bill Vinovich and his crew members, the sting of the playoff loss would have been easier to accept by the Who Dat Nation. This past season, Vinovich was never disciplined by the NFL, and he was assigned to serve as Referee for Super Bowl 54 in Miami. The NFL may take notes from the XFL in these regards.
NEW BRAND OF FOOTBALL, FOR THE FANS
The new brand of football is succeeding with the fans and some skeptics. As one sports fan stated, "this is football re-imagined" and they (XFL) are "listening to the fans."
A true barometer to the XFL’s success will be if they are close to profitable this season. Poor financial reports are what plagues most fledgling new sports leagues. It will be interesting to review the numbers after the XFL Championship game. This will be a telling sign for the survival of Vince McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment’s newest product.
At the moment, the league’s future is unclear. But what is not doubtful is that professional football’s faithful are happy and entertained with the XFL during the NFL's offseason. If the NFL adopts the fan interaction strategy of the XFL and allow the Who Dats to showcase their fanatical passion for the Saints, the NFL games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be phenomenal. This is a brand of football New Orleans Saints’ fans would enjoy and support if it ever made its way to the Big Easy. Well, let's be honest, Saints fans don't say "laissez le bon temps rouler" (let the good times roll) only during Mardi Gras.
What are your thoughts on the XFL? Let us know in the comment section below!
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